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Violent clashes as police evict squatters in Rio


At least ten residents and police officers were injured Friday as authorities ousted squatters from an abandoned building just steps from Rio's iconic Maracana stadium.

With the start of the World Cup two months away, Brazil has stepped up security efforts in the metropolis, where tens of thousands of football fans will fly in for the tournament and which will stage seven matches -- including the July 13 final at Maracana.

At dawn, hundreds of police arrived at the building -- which had been occupied by squatters in recent weeks -- armed with an eviction order requested by the Oi phone company, which owns the property.

Meanwhile, cranes and tractors demolished wooden huts built around the building -- many still full of the belongings residents had had no time to pack.

Hundreds of desperate and angry residents and neighbors poured into the street to protest the loss of their new homes.

"This is what happens in the (World) Cup country," was a repeatedly heard lament.

Dozens of furious youths threw stones and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Several buses were set on fire.

For several hours, about a hundred protesters resisted police orders to vacate the building. Two were ultimately arrested for refusing to leave.

Newspaper O Globo also reported that suspected drug traffickers from neighboring favelas fired guns at the police.

Authorities have not confirmed the toll of injured. News website G11 said there were also 25 people detained, including a reporter from Globo accused of contempt.

The shantytown emerged on March 31 when about 5,000 people who were homeless or tired of paying high rents in other slums decided to commandeer the building, which had been empty for years, and the surrounding area.